Prequels, Sequels, and Truly Never-ending Stories
May 13, 2013
The newest Star Trek film will hit the screens on May 17. Star Trek Into Darkness is the second film in the prequel/remake of this long running franchise. This new take on the series comes at a time when we have learned that there will now be new Star Wars films as well. Many thought that the end had come with the third prequel, Revenge of the Sith. Now, however, we are told that there might be a new Stars Wars film every year, starting in 2015. They have also hinted that the new films may not follow the established history that was created in countless books during the 30 years since the end of Return of the Jedi. This means there may be two very different Star Wars mythologies, one in the books and one on screen.
While some are ecstatic about the prospect of more stories set in a galaxy far, far away, some feel that the tale has already been told and should be left as is. As a Star Wars fan myself, I don’t yet know how I feel about this, nor do I have an opinion about what is being done with Star Trek since I haven’t yet seen the first prequel/remake. However, I have been thinking about the fact that there is a growing trend to continue stories indefinitely. Single pieces with a beginning, middle, and end are becoming rare in the science fiction and fantasy genres.
When J. K. Rowling stated that the seventh novel in the Harry Potter series would be the last, many thought that, given the success of the books, she would eventually change her mind. So far, other than supplemental material like The Tales of Beedle the Bard, she seems to be sticking to this. The same appears to be true for the Twilight books. But how long will that last? Are creators of worlds like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Harry Potter afraid to let them go? When should a story come to an end, or are we now in a time when they don’t ever have to end?
As a fan of fantasy and science fiction, I have become used to the trend towards series rather than one-off works. In fact, I can’t remember the last time that I read a book in one of these genres that didn’t end with "To Be Continued". While trilogies still seem to be the most common form, some series now appear to have no end in sight and that can be frustrating at times. At least with a trilogy, there will eventually be a resolution. Some of these works, however, are apparently going to go on forever. And even some trilogies are choosing to continue in prequels or spin-offs. As much as I might love the stories and characters, I also think that there is such a thing as beating something to death.
The question is how much is too much? Or is there really any such thing as too much? I guess it partly depends on whether you are a fan of the material. If you love Harry Potter, it’s a tragedy there are going to be no more books. If you can’t get enough of the Star Trek universe, there simply can never be too many films and television series. Then again, if you can’t stand either, even the first book and TV show was a waste of time. Of course, there is also this question: Are the stories being continued because there truly is more story to tell, or is it because there is simply more money to be made? I think the answer to this is usually found in the quality of the finished book or film.
So, more Star Wars is coming. And who knows how long might it be before there is another Star Trek series (there have been five so far). When entire universes have been created, there are many different aspects of those universes to explore. In those cases, the sequels, prequels, and spin-offs can work. The problem comes when a story that was meant to be concluded gets continued mostly because it was a popular story that people didn’t want to let go. In those situations, the power of that story can get diluted. In other words - J. K., stick to your guns. Let at least one story have a truly great and final ending.